With a roomy five weeks between the last PPV and this one, Creative had time to build some solid feeling paths to Battleground. I’ve been enjoying the run up and last week’s go home show was stellar.
I didn’t watch the preshow this time because I’ve really not been into the goofy King Barrett/R-Truth storyline. The match was a “Winner keeps the crown” match and Barrett won. Hopefully that’s the end to a little angle that has sucked the joy out of Raw for five minutes apiece for the last month plus.
On to the actual show:
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus
This feels like the thousandth time we’ve seen Orton/Sheamus. Their feud is so deeply established, having years of history, but paradoxically barely there. Anyway, they’d been interrupting each other’s matches for a while and so I guess they just get a fight at Battleground.
The match wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It started off slow and remained that way for a long time. Around halfway through, the crowd really made their voices heard and spurred on Orton. He hit a sweet superplex on Sheamus from the top rope and also managed a trademark RKO outta nowhere to win the match. It was a solid finish.
The Prime Time Players vs. The New Day for the WWE Tag Team Championship
I was surprised when PTP stripped New Day of their tag titles. It felt premature as we’d only just got used to an intentionally booable New Day. However, the decision to give the Prime Time Players the belts has proved to be a sound one. They’re fun and put on some seriously brilliant matches. Plus, New Day get to share the spotlight as their biggest rivals. It’s great and certainly makes the tag division interesting.
The tag match was really enjoyable. Both teams got their moments and Xavier Woods continues to be the best hype man in recent memory. The image of him sitting on the steel steps cackling and applauding like a mischievous goblin was legitimately funny. Darren Young was the most impressive in-ring. He’s a damn dynamo and I love his Gut Check finisher. That’s not to discount Titus O’Neil‘s Clash of the Titus. Not only is the actual move as devastating as the pun, Titus hit a fantastic one to end this match. Prime Time Players retain. Thumbs up.
Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt
If you’ve read any of my Raw Recaps, you’ll know that I’ve been digging the hell out of the story between these two. Whilst the threat to Reigns’ daughter angle was dropped fairly sharpish, the mind games that Wyatt has been playing on Reigns over the past month have been fun.
I enjoyed the match. Reigns has improved as an in-ring performer and Bray Wyatt is something else. Some of Wyatt’s clotheslines were incredible, especially the counter to Roman’s apron dropkick. It was a thumpfest of a fight with bigger and bigger hits being traded. At one crucial point, Reigns started throwing chairs into the ring before he got blindsided and kicked by a hooded assailant. The physical storytelling felt off here. Why did Reigns throw six chairs into the ring? The only reason I can think of is that Reigns had lost his level-headed demeanour and wanted to go hardcore on Wyatt’s skull, but there was no real sense of that in the moment.
Wyatt took advantage of the stunned Reigns and slapped him in a Sister Abigail, smashing his head to the canvas and winning by pinfall. The hooded man joined Bray in the ring and revealed himself to be Luke Harper, seemingly rejoining the Wyatt family.
I was very surprised that Bray won, but he definitely needed the win more than Roman. A man talking at length about how he’s going to hurt you becomes significantly less scary when you know he gets his head kicked in with everyone he antagonises. I looked up Wyatt’s wins and he’s won a lot of his big matches, but it really doesn’t feel like it. Roman Reigns has done well in the rivalry too and I hope they don’t end it here. Also, I am 500% down for a Wyatt family reunion. Bray was awesome in his cult leader role. Here’s hoping the injured Erick Rowan will make a comeback soon and complete the flock.
Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Brie Bella in a Triple Threat match
The Divas division has been given a long overdue shake up recently and it looks like the three NXT women are here to stay. It feels like more care and attention is going into the Divas segment and it’s working. There are three factions in the division right now. Team Bella, consisting of Divas champ Nikki Bella, her sister Brie and Alicia Fox. Then we have the newly formed groups – Team Paige, with Charlotte and Becky Lynch being led by Paige and Team BAD (Beautiful and Dangerous) which has Naomi, Tamina and NXT Women’s champ Sasha Banks. The teams had to select one member to represent them in a triple threat match.
The match was damn good. My personal MVP was Sasha Banks but Charlotte and Brie did some great work. It was a surprisingly lengthy match too, which can only be a good thing for the Divas division. Charlotte picked up the win for Team Paige. Good stuff. Not to run before we’re walking, but let’s try giving the women individual storylines soon too.
John Cena vs. Kevin Owens for the United States Championship
Hoo boy. The build-up to this one has been fantastic. Owens managed a shock win in his first PPV and the heat’s been on with Cena ever since. Both previous matches have been match of the year candidates so my personal expectations were sky high. I wasn’t concerned with the actual fighting (it was a given the match was going to be good) as much as the outcome of this match. Owens has been built like a monster and immediately going toe-to-toe with someone like John Cena has increased his stock considerably.
The match was just as good as expected. It was exciting and there was genuine jeopardy to Cena’s reign, something which the open challenge matches haven’t really been able to benefit from. There was a brilliant back and forth and some jaw-dropping moves were pulled out of the bag. Owens is also the first person to my knowledge to kick out of Cena’s match ending top rope super AA. I was really into it but the eventual end did disappoint me, because we’ve seen it all before. After an exhausting match and an embarrassing taste of his own medicine, Cena locked in his signature submission move, the STF, and Owens tapped. I’m fine with Cena retaining (sort of, having Owens as the US champ would be all kinds of awesome) but why did Owens have to tap? I guess heels tap whereas babyfaces pass out, but it’s an unsatisfying conclusion to a rivalry with so much previous momentum. Here’s hoping this isn’t the final word.
There was an Intercontinental Triple Threat match between The Miz, Ryback and Big Show scheduled, but it was cancelled after Ryback got injured. It’s a shame. I wasn’t really into the lead up, but Miz’s involvement was the only entertaining element and it made me curious about the match. Instead, The Miz came out and cut a promo, talking about Ryback faking his injury because he was scared to lose to him. Miz also slagged off Big Show, who walked down the ramp, entered the ring, knocked Miz out with a single punch and left, all without saying a word. I’m not sure how I’m meant to feel about that.
Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
After a lengthy suspension, Brock finally gets his Wrestlemania rematch with Rollins. The build has been really good. A ton of time was dedicated to Brock dismantling Rollins’ support network. Lesnar is an unstoppable force and it’s been fun to watch Rollins weasel his way out of the Beast’s clutches. With his backup gone, Rollins faced Lesnar alone at Battleground and the stakes were high.
The match was fantastic. It was pretty much all Lesnar. Brock suplexed Seth to within an inch of his life, but Rollins got a surprising amount of offence in. I loved Rollins trying his usual trick of running into the crowd, only to have Lesnar demonstrate his terrifying speed and grace by vaulting over the barricade and throwing Seth back into the ring area. It was only going one way and Lesnar finally had enough of punishing the barely concious Rollins and wound up for the finish. Suddenly, everything went dark and a familiar gong rang out. When the lights came up, The Undertaker was standing in the ring, seething and staring down Lesnar. Undertaker Tombstoned Lesnar multiple times and the night ended with Undertaker posing victoriously on the entrance ramp.
It was a weak finish, to be honest with you. I love the Undertaker, but his appearance felt like it cut a great fight short and it’s painting a concerning picture for the future. The Lesnar/Taker match at Wrestlemania wasn’t the best, despite the genuinely surprising and gutsy end and I’m not sure I want to see another one. Plus, what’s to be gained from all this? If Brock wins, nothing really changes and it won’t have the same impact and if Taker wins, it makes the breaking of the streak less special. Hopefully they do something cool with it, but I hope Seth Rollins isn’t lost in the shuffle. He’s still champ and so regular Rollins action is certain, but we didn’t get a proper ending to this rivalry.
I’m left a little deflated after Battleground. There were some fine matches, but a few of the endings were unsatisfying. I was so into many of the rivalries leading into Battleground, but none of them really caught fire in the actual show. Summerslam is next and it’s one of the biggies, so the next five weeks should be pretty entertaining.